To Improve is to Change


It’s been 30 years since Sir Tim Berners Lee submitted his proposal for the information management system that became ‘the World Wide Web’, and so everyone has been asking the inventor’s thoughts on the opportunities, threats and future of the internet.   One of his comments particularly stood out for me:

“Given how much the web has changed in the past 30 years, it would be defeatist and unimaginative to assume that the web as we know it can’t be changed for better in the next 30.”

Sir Tim Berners Lee

This comment sparked some nostalgia for me as I thought over all those changes; the Browser Wars of the 1990s; the technology advances that turned mobile phones into the hardware of choice for internet access; the surprise surge in User Generated Content which came around the same time that video content (both UGC and from publishers) began consuming large volumes of bandwidth… Sir Tim is right – it’s been a busy 30 years! 

If universal access was the hot topic 5-10 years ago, then privacy has without doubt taken over as the principal challenge we need to address today.  There are many factors contributing to this challenge but, accounting for 85% of the volume of all enterprise web traffic and underpinning or enabling the vast majority of threats to data privacy, cloud services are well worth inclusion in this discussion.

Cloud services are bi-directional, they enable data to move out of an organization over the internet. The advent of bi-directional cloud services has made data management and protection much more complex at exactly the same time that the quantity and detail of digital data that organizations own has grown exponentially.

To mark the 30 year anniversary of the internet, and acknowledge the challenges facing its use and regulation today, the World Wide Web Foundation has been collaborating with internet stakeholders to create a code of conduct document.  Launched this week, this ‘Contract of the Web’, gives a lot of attention to the right to privacy; which is at the heart of two of the core nine principles of the web. Governments are called upon to “respect and protect people’s fundamental online privacy and data rights”, and companies urged to “respect and protect people’s privacy and personal data to build online trust”.

When we (and Sir Tim) are considering which changes we will make to better the internet over the coming decades, we need to acknowledge that multi-directional services will likely continue to dominate internet traffic.  Tools built to protect us in earlier iterations of the internet will need to be upgraded and replaced, and we will need to be prepared to rethink our whole approach to security and privacy, just as we have reimagined our use of the internet.

I started with a Winston Churchill quote, so I will finish with one too; “Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning”.